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What Can B2B Marketing Learn from Hollywood?

In case you haven’t noticed, making movies is business, not only art. If the past few years tell us anything, it is that the studios are relying more than ever on numbers and data, not hunch and feel. It’s not the film industry anymore, it’s the film business.

A B2B business to be exact.

How do movies get made?

Traditionally, a producer gets wind of “the property”. It can be a book, an article in a magazine, or a new story – the brainchild of a starving screen writer.

He weighs the pros and cons of such an endeavor. If the story captivates him, and there’s a potential for a big payoff, he options the original material for a few years or buys it outright to do with as he sees fit.

Then the producer is tasked with developing the property. If needed, he hires a writer to write or re-write the script. He lets it be known that he is working on something that he loves and will be the best thing ever, to generate interest. He can invest his own money, or go to investors and show them the property and its viability and get seed money for development.

When the script is to his liking, he packages it to a studio. Here’s my product, he says, with this or that director, and with hopes for this or that actor to star in it.

All a producer has to do now is solve this conundrum: How to get a star to commit to a project before there’s money to do the project. You can’t get a movie financed without a star attached and you can’t get a star’s commitment before you have money to put in an escrow account against his/her salary, to prove you are serious about it. Studio’s money commitment can solve that easily.

Up till now, the process is known as ‘development hell’. A script can go through many re-writes, by different writers, to please different tastes.

And it has to be approved by multiple departments.

Once production starts on this Hollywood movie it becomes a B2B business.

The studios develop movies in order to sell them to a distribution companies. The distribution companies sell the movies to theaters owners around the world.

There’s this belief in Hollywood in the past few years that in order to get people out of their homes and into the theater, movies have to become an event. That’s why the studio produced movies that are more a spectacle than a story well told. With this huge expense comes a worry about the risk.

What does a B2B company do when facing a very big and complicated contract? Partners with other company.

Major movie studios like Universal, Paramount, Sony, or Fox are trying to minimize the risk by partnering with one another, sharing the budget and the responsibilities and making the product more expensive in the process. They are also producing a lot of sequels. If a movie – the characters, the story, and the world it created, was successful in the box office, it’s almost a sure bet that another story in this world, and with even more special effects and bigger explosions will be successful as well.

Not always. “Batman v Superman: down of justice” had a production budget of $250 million, before marketing. It made only $330 million in the USA. Or “The Lone Ranger” with Johnny Depp which cost $215 million to produce and recouped only $89 million in the US.

The smaller studios are those who produce the not so expensive movies, which get less attention and less marketing money. Aside from a few exceptions, like “Paranormal Activity” and “The Blair Witch Project”, that had very low budgets and very high popularity, thanks to viral marketing. Movies without marketing budget get rarely seen.

When the photography, the editing, the sound and the special and visual effects are done, it is when the marketing department, which followed the film from the day it started shooting, takes over to advertises and sell the movie.

It doesn’t come cheap. P&A as it is traditionally called (Prints and Advertising) can cost a lot of money. Some of those big blockbusters get a marketing budget of $150 million per movie.

Today the shooting budget goes into tens if not hundreds of million, post production into tens of millions, and marketing doubles the whole budget. Doubles it.

The stakes are high and the movie has to succeed. They need the audience to see the movie in their local multiplex. The key number – the opening weekend – is directly linked to how much buzz has been generated by marketing. It’s not uncommon that a big movie makes 40% of its budget back that first weekend.

What can B2B Learn from Hollywood Marketing?

Think like a Hollywood producer. It may be that most B2B operations aren’t as exciting and glamorous as making a movie, but thinking about marketing your products or services in the same way can deliver outstanding results and give it its 15 minutes of fame.

Let’s follow the logic of the movies:

What is it?

The first question asked is what kind of a movie is it? What genre? A comedy, drama, adventure, science fiction, super hero? A general idea what is this movie the audience will get to see.

In the B2B world this equate to what kind of product or service are you delivering.

Who are the Stars of this Movie?

Stars sell movies. That is the going belief in Hollywood. Without a star to generate interest, the movie has a slim chance to become a world-wide success. That is why those stars are commending and getting millions of dollars for 3-4 months of work. Not because they work so hard or the work is dangerous or extremely complicated. They get those millions for their potential to generate income. They are the components of the movie.

In the B2B world, what are the components? Who’s behind it? A B2B inbound strategy is only good as the quality of the content. With well-known names behind it, it should be a good product, shouldn’t it?

What’s Unique About this Movie?

What is the hook, the twist, the angle of the story? Why would I want to see it?

In B2B terms: Whatever you are selling needs a hook, an angle. Price, added features, attached incentives, service level, and so on are the unique elements of the product or service you are selling.

Marketing the Product

Most Hollywood blockbusters spend 33% of the total project budget on marketing. How big is the marketing budget for your new product? Marketing dollars are what can make or break a movie.

Where are those dollars spent? Where did you see an ad for a movie lately? Was it on TV, on the internet, outdoor advertising on busses and bus stations, on billboards, in print?

The answer will be all of the above.

It appears on many different media channels in order to get enough exposure to the audiences.

Where does the film business put most of its money in ads? “In 2015, 67 movie marketers placed 934 different spots more than 524,000 times on U.S. national television, adding up to a total estimated media value of $2.36 billion, according to iSpot.tv data. That’s up 39% from 2014, when studios spent an estimated $1.7 billion airing ads” says Variety, the movie trade magazine.

Just as an example: The standard rate for prime placement across the top of YouTube’s home page is $725,000 per day. It adds up to about $5 million for a one-week ad campaign.

In B2B marketing, just like in the movie business, customers need 3 or 4 campaign touch points for it to register. Media needs to work together and relate to each other.

Following a movie from principal photography to premiere, the marketing department plots the campaign. First they let out a few pictures of the stars. In the last few years it has become a custom for directors to tweet a picture of the star in costume (“Wonder woman”) a picture of the bat mobile (“Batman Vs. superman”), or a James Bond new car and gadgets.

As photography continues, the drip continues. Create interest, curiosity. Get people to talk about the new product, turn it into a viral campaign by releasing a few seconds of the movie, tie it to currant event.

When the movie- the product – is finalized, the blitz starts. Ads, articles, and interviews. If you look at the late night talk shows, they are populated with actors and directors whose movie is about to open. The studios make agreements with fast food chains and toy makers to increase interest.

How would that equate B2B marketing?

By talking about the product and giving it the “15 minutes “of fame. By creating buzz around the product or service. By advertising it on different media in a well-orchestrated campaign.

Here are a couple of examples how big B2B companies are implementing it:

Dun and Bradstreet – Content marketing and demand generation. One of its most impressive projects is a new thought-leadership blog targeting marketing executives. White papers and quizzes that are often tied to a pop culture or news topic. For Halloween, for example, the company launched an infographic titled “Is your Database the Walking Dead?”.

IBM – The company is pushing new approaches to cognition in business, healthcare, security, education, culture and so on. So IBM created a content marketing series to make ‘cognition’ more understandable. “A cognitive business is a business that thinks” is their slogan and they collect videos, websites and slideshows that detail the potential impact in a certain field. They created a YouTube series to spread the idea across IBM’s channels. It is connected to Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook and gives people a chance to react on their preferred social media channel.

The success of marketing campaigns is rooted in the understanding that B2B buyers have the same appetite for useful, interesting, entertaining, and authentic content, as movie goers do in theaters all over the world.

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